Pennsylvania Senate is under pressure to pass the wider gambling expansion bill which will legalise and regulate online gambling before Wednesday, when the 2016 legislative session comes to an end.
Before the summer recess of the state’s Senate, House Bill 2150 was approved by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives following an amendment to the bill, which had formerly been rejected. The expansion bill is now waiting to be approved by the Senate.
However, in September the court ruled that the “Local Share Tax” which governs revenue sharing agreements between casinos and their local communities were unconstitutional. Indeed, according to the state’s 2004 Gambling Bill, all casinos, except those in Philadelphia, Nemacolin and Valley Forge, are required to pay $10 million a year to their host municipalities, or two percent of their slots revenue. Ultimately, casinos that generate less revenue may pay a heavier tax bill than their larger competitors.
This ruling means that $140m will be lost from the annual revenue that local communities receive from casinos – an issue which the legislature has 120 days to fix. The projected revenue from the expansion bill (offering in excess of $100m) now stands as an attractive solution to this problem. Indeed, if the House and the Senate can come to an agreement, then the bill could be amended to regulate online gambling and amend the language of the Gaming Act of 2004 simultaneously. However, if the bill is not passed by Wednesday, the legalisation of online gambling may be put on hold until 2017.